Senate Democrats

Reid Remarks On A Republican Government Shutdown

“The House has – once again – attached political policy riders that are dead on arrival in the Senate… But once again Democrats will not re-litigate the health care debate or negotiate at the point of a gun.” 

“Although many of these Republicans have gladly allowed the federal government to pay for a portion of their own health insurance for years, they now want to force 16,000 Congressional employees to cover the full cost of their health insurance.”

“Let all 435 members of the House vote on the clean continuing resolution passed by the Senate on Friday, and reaffirmed this afternoon. Stop standing in the way, I say to the Speaker. John Boehner, let the House work its will.” 

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the latest attempt by Republicans to shut down the government.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Albert Einstein defined insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Tonight, we have more proof that House Republicans have lost their minds. Instead of allowing all 435 members of the House of Representatives to vote on the Senate’s bill to keep the government open for business, Speaker Boehner is once again pushing a government shutdown.

The House has – once again – attached political policy riders that are dead on arrival in the Senate. I’ve heard this story before, in fact, just six short hours ago. Republicans have once again threatened to shut down the government unless Democrats repeal Obamacare for a year. But once again Democrats will not re-litigate the health care debate or negotiate at the point of a gun.

And this time the House has attached a poison pill that would punish 16,000 Congressional workers. The amendment, originally offered by the junior Senator from Louisiana, would force staffers to cover the full cost of their health care.

A Politico report published yesterday perfectly explained the hypocrisy of this approach. This is what it said: “Some health reform opponents claim the Obama administration is giving members of Congress and their staffs special treatment under the Affordable Care Act. The claim… is simply false: Although they will be required to enroll in health plans offered within the new health-insurance exchanges established under the law, members of Congress and their staffs will not receive extra financial help to pay for their medical care… In reality, it’s the critics — as part of their ongoing assault on the health care law — who are seeking special treatment for Congress, by proposing to make members and their staffs the only workers in the United States whose employer is barred by law from helping to cover their premiums.”

Like 150 million other Americans who get their health insurance through their jobs, a portion of the cost of Congressional staffers’ healthcare premiums is currently covered by their employer – the federal government. In other words, members of Congress and Congressional staffers live by the same rules as other Americans. As a matter of fact, all members of Congress will be getting their health care on marketplace exchanges, just like tens of millions of Americans. But House Republicans want to force our staffers, who work so hard, to live by a different set of rules.

Although many of these Republicans have gladly allowed the federal government to pay for a portion of their own health insurance for years, they now want to force 16,000 Congressional employees to cover the full cost of their health insurance. If Republican Senators believe they should bear the full cost of their own health insurance, they should decline the employer contribution and pay their own way. They should stop being hypocritical. They should practice what they preach. But punishing 16,000 innocent Congressional workers is simply mean spirited.

Speaker Boehner knows this new amendment won’t last any longer than the last one once it gets to the Senate. The Senate will vote it down, and House Republicans will be in the same pickle they’re in now, but with even less time left before the government shuts down.

But there is still a way for Speaker Boehner to get out of this quagmire. Let all 435 members of the House vote on the clean continuing resolution passed by the Senate on Friday, and reaffirmed this afternoon. Stop standing in the way, I say to the Speaker. John Boehner, let the House work its will.

If Speaker Boehner prevents the Senate bill from coming to the floor before midnight, the responsibility for this Republican government shutdown will rest squarely on his shoulders, as all America knows.

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